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UNC offense designed to spread the ball to many different targets

On North Carolina's first offensive series Saturday against Clemson, Tar Heels quarterback T.J. Yates completed passes to five different targets. By the end of the first quarter, he had completed passes to six different Tar Heels. By the end of the first half, the number of different North Carolina players who had recorded receptions was up to seven, and the number of Tar Heels who'd had passes thrown to them was up to nine.

Six North Carolina players have caught nine or more passes this season. By contrast, Virginia had four players with nine or more receptions until tight end Joe Torchia was lost for the rest of the season because of a shoulder injury. So now that number is down to three.

"Yates runs their offense well, and he's very efficient at it," Virginia Coach Mike London said Monday. "We've got to do a good job of making sure that we take care of ourselves defensively in understanding some of the things that they're trying to do by playing better coverage, rushing, putting pressure on him. And then just knowing that a guy like [tailback Johnny] White is coming out of the backfield. He makes some big catches in some big games for them."

Indeed, White (5 feet 10, 205 pounds) is developing into a primary source of production for a Tar Heels offense that is not exactly prolific. During North Carolina's 21-16 win over Clemson, White rushed for 89 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught six passes for 90 yards. On the season, White is North Carolina's leading rusher and second-leading receiver.

As for Yates, the senior quarterback possesses the No. 1 completion percentage (65 percent) in the ACC and ranks No. 2 in the league in efficiency rating (141.7).

The Tar Heels will not wow you with a quirky offensive scheme, nor are they likely to pile up huge offensive numbers. North Carolina ranks No. 10 in the conference in total offense (356.4 yards per game), No. 11 in scoring offense (25.6 points per game) and No. 11 in rushing offense (122.4 yards per game).

But with Yates tossing the ball around to all areas of the field, North Carolina can be quite effective through the air. The Tar Heels are tied with Miami for the ACC's No. 4 passing offense (234 yards per game). Yates's top target is senior tight end Zack Pianalto (27 receptions, 257 yards), though clearly the quarterback doesn't lack for confidence in throwing to anyone offensive coordinator John Shoop sends out onto the field.

It appears as though Cavaliers senior cornerback Ras-I Dowling is at or nearing full strength, so it will be interesting to see how he and the Virginia secondary fare against the North Carolina offense. The Cavaliers rank No. 2 in the ACC in passing defense (151 yards per game allowed), though in the past two weeks their opponents have not had much reason to throw the ball given how generous Virginia has been to opposing running backs.

By Steve Yanda  | October 12, 2010; 7:40 AM ET
Categories:  Football  
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Next: Tar Heels defense performing adequately in face of off-field turmoil

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